It might have been many years ago, but I grew up during a time where trophies were given to a select amount of individuals. Individuals who exceeded in talent, knowledge, and ability above everyone else. First place trophies were given to the person who came in first and everyone else learned to accept and recognize the effort that was put forth. It builds character to not always come out on top. Feeling humble for losing teaches us about effort and how to try harder the next time. Character is built when you are on the losing team and you have to shake hands and recite “good game” to each member of the winning team. Character is built when you are on the winning team and see your friends offering you a congratulations fist bump. Not everyone gets a trophy!
I grew up knowing that I was not the strongest in math, but I was great at creative writing. I was not a great artist, but I was great on the cross country team. I was not in the chorus, but I was a fundraising champion. I was not always aggressive while playing team sports, but I was great helping students get organized. Knowing your highs and lows create character and makes you appreciate your unique characteristics. Not a single one of us is good at everything!
Now I live in an age where everyone gets a trophy. Everyone gets a participation reward. Everyone gets treated exactly the same. How does that build character? How does that teach effort?
Replace the participation trophy by teaching kids it is okay:
-to strike out.
-to finish the test last.
-to not be the top seller.
-to not win a BINGO.
-to not be the first to be asked to the dance.
-to not all cross the finish line at the same time.
-to not all get a ribbon for showing up.
-to not get your name pulled out of the hat to win the door prize.
-to not know how to solve an equation right away.
-to not be invited to the party.
-to not be included in a group message.
-to not be asked to be the line leader.
-to not be the first out the door for the Easter egg hunt.
Teach kids that it is okay to celebrate others when they:
-hit a home run.
-are great at taking tests.
-are unstoppable when selling ice to Eskimos.
-win at BINGO.
-cross the finish line first.
-leave with a 1st place ribbon ribbon.
-are lucky and always seem to get their name pulled out of the hat.
-solve equations on their first try.
-are the life of the party.
-stand proud as the line leader.
-collect the most Easter Eggs.
It is also okay to be average at some skills. It is okay to be great at sports. It is okay to struggle in math.
In a world of participation trophies, we are not teaching our kids to be happy for our friends when they succeed.
We are teaching students it doesn’t matter the amount of effort we give because everyone gets the same reward.